Thresher franchise scheme takes off after a slow start

Up to 100 of some 600 earmarked stores expected to be converted by June

Thresher Group has announced "reassuring" results for its franchise scheme as 36 stores are fully converted.

A further 200 shops are in various stages of conversion, according to chief executive Roger Whiteside. "The whole process takes between 80 and 150 days, depending on the individuals involved," he said.

Whiteside predicts the rate of conversion will increase over the coming year.

"We think it will speed up. As it's new, the lawyers involved are asking lots of questions, but as it gathers momentum they will know the contracts and it will become an easier process. Others are advising us this will happen," he said.

By the end of the group's financial year in June, it expects to have 100 shops fully converted out of 600 sites earmarked for the scheme. Thresher initially targeted branch managers with the offer, but opened it up to the general public last summer.

Melanie Elms, former manager of the Meads Street branch in Eastbourne, took over the shop at the end of last year. Elms said: "It's going well and I'm really pleased. Working for yourself is very different from being a manager but in a good way. I'm making my wages plus some more."

Elms is now looking into sourcing local products and growing the shop's offering. "You have a lot of freedom to do what you want but with a strong brand name to trade under," she said.

Commitment to local sourcing in 2,000 stores

Thresher has signed a deal with the Society of Independent Brewers to stock local beers in up to 2,000 of its shops.

The group has made room in each store for up to four lines, including bottle-conditioned beers where possible, from breweries within 40 miles of the shop.

A Thresher spokesman said the group would be launching the new range of ales in August. Some 260 brewers take part in SIBA's Direct Delivery Scheme, which already has links with Asda and Edinburgh Woollen Mill, and last year boosted its sales to over £4.5 million.

DDS managing director Nick Stafford said: "We are delighted to announce this arrangement with Thresher and it's a fantastic commitment by them to not only local sourcing but also bottle-conditioned beers."